Thursday, October 07, 2021

The Semantic Deception of SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) - Distrust and Verify

The problems, features and causes behind SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) run deep into our history, deeper than its promoters would like to admit, and deeper than can be covered in a brief presentation, such as this.
The first of five posts making up the substance of a presentation I gave to parents in the Lindbergh School District
That's not a problem for us though, as despite what we can't cover here, we can cover more than enough of what's needed to recognize significant key points, what patterns to look out for, and to highlight that information which you can, and should, consider more deeply for yourselves, and for your community. Neither, despite its being advertised as being exceedingly kind and well intentioned, is there any real problem in being able to point out SEL's dangers, as its troubles are numerous, alarming, not very difficult to find, and giving closer attention to them soon reveals that its apparent strengths are in fact thin cover for serious weaknesses.

The real problem we face is that people don't want to bother going beyond the surface claims made by programs such as SEL. They'll take the hurdle of one question and one answer, and go no further because they trust that the answer means what they think it means. For instance, if you tell them that one of SEL's key components DEI, (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion), is smuggling Marxist concepts and worse into their kids heads, they'll check with someone at the school, but on getting what amounts to the promotional materials reply of:
  • Diversity is presented as a place where people of diverse backgrounds will be involved, sort of a ‘Melting Pot’ without the melting.
  • Equity is presented as working towards fairness for all
  • Inclusion urges us that all should be made to feel included in every aspect of a community
, not only do they not see a problem there, but as it appears to have a very 'American' vibe to it, they wonder why you would want to argue with that? And so most people who're occupied with other matters in their lives, come away with the sense that surely ‘What we see’ must at least resemble the reality of ‘What we get’, so why argue about it?

And that's a problem. On being told that there are problems in the schools, parents will check with their kid's teacher, or their principal, their school board, the Press, or even with their governor, and on getting a reasonable sounding reply to their concerns, are deceived by the appearances they don't have time to look beyond, and write the furor off to excitable people worrying over inconsequential incidentals, and go about with getting on with their lives.

We've been deceived into believing that the surface appearances adequately reflect what lies underneath, and believing what we see, we see no need to look any deeper into what we get.

That's the problem that needs to be confronted, because it is how the systemic cancer that is our educational system has spread as deeply through our society as it has; it's how we can hear acronyms like CRT, SEL, DEI, CT... and believe that they are separate and distinct issues (they aren't) which can be carefully stepped around or avoided (they can't). And so on that note, before getting into the nature of SEL, and in order to be able to, I want to introduce you to a nifty term that I’d somehow forgotten until a friend recently reminded me of it:
  • Semantic Deception: "Redefining terms to get agreement without understanding. Example: use of words that mean one thing to parents and another thing to change agents."

How Semantic Deception works in practice, is that a term or phrase is used which one or more of the parties involved are led to believe that everyone involved has the same common understanding of, such as,
  • "Schools should get back to teaching the basics!"
, and so unaware that one or more of the parties involved have an additional and entirely different understanding of the words that they think they are communicating with, they're unaware that the assurances and agreements they're making upon that undisclosed 'misunderstanding' will be used for taking actions they'd never anticipated, and would have refused to go along with, if they had.

For instance, going back to the basics of education itself, the term concerned with what and how students should be taught, is called Pedagogy, which the standard dictionary definition of, is:
  • Pedagogy: "The method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept."
, which most people think of as how best to teach the Three R's: "Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmatic". Prospective teachers, of course, go to teachers college to gain skills in "...inquiry, critical perspectives, knowledge of content and pedagogy...", etc., so that they can be state certified to teach, and of course continuing 'Professional Development' courses to keep those skills intact, and certified. The fellow often referred to as the 'Father of Critical Pedagogy', Henry Giroux, acknowledged in an interview that most people do think of pedagogy in a straight-forward "3R's" sort of way, that
"...Teaching for many conservatives is often treated simply as a set of strategies and skills to use in order to teach prespecified subject matter...."
Giroux however, an academic whose ideas have been deeply involved for decades in teaching our teachers how to teach our kids, and why, has been teaching them a very different understanding of what Pedagogy is, and what it is for. A very small sample of what he went on to say in that interview (you should read the full interview) about what he means by pedagogy, is:
  • "...On the other hand, critical pedagogy must be seen as a political and moral project and not a technique. Pedagogy is always political because it is connected to the acquisition of agency... illuminates the relationships among knowledge, authority, and power... pedagogy is a deliberate attempt on the part of educators to influence how and what knowledge and subjectivities are produced within particular sets of social relations..."
Keep in mind that Giroux is not talking about something as controversial as Critical Race Theory, or even SEL - he's talking about the basics of teaching - you know, what academia views as 'normal' ideas of how teachers should go about teaching to your kids, and why. Are you getting that? Parents and politicians would explode if their schools told them that anyone involved in their schools had the idea that the purpose of 'teaching is to deliberately influence students political beliefs and social relations towards a leftist ideology', and so that understanding is rarely mentioned outside of wacademia, while the parents and (most) politicians are left thinking that the 3R's are still what pedagogy is all about. Unaware of what's hiding behind the semantic deception, they believe that their repeated calls of "Schools should get back to teaching the basics!" are being heeded when the leading educators (which includes administrators and bureaucracy) assure them that 'We're the experts, and we know just how to do what you ask!', leaving the parents and politicians blissfully unaware that what they thought they'd asked for and agreed to, is going to be nothing like what their kids are actually going to continue getting.

And that is how this deceptive game of semantics has played out in our schools, decade, after decade. Giroux's main work was four decades ago, and of course that pedagogical theory has been *developed* much further since then, by folks such as 'bell hooks', Joe L. Kincheloe, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and others who we'll come back to later, the result of which is that we now have schools where our students ability to read, write, calculate, and to understand why they should learn the 3R's, have been progressively exchanged for an eagerness to engage in political activism that *everyone* (of course everyone that's anyone is *woke*) agrees is 'vitally important!'.

We cannot afford another round of such semantic deceptions, where 'What we see' promised, bears no resemblance to 'What we get'. We have to take a closer look at what the words we're being told, actually mean to those who're telling them to us, and the actions that are being taken under them, to understand what we will end up getting before we get stuck with getting it, yet again.

The use of Semantic Deception has put us beyond the point of 'Trust, but verify', we need to actively 'Distrust, and verify'. With that in mind, let's take a closer look at what has been built upon those critical basics, through those features that are visibly just beneath the surface of DEI, to anyone willing to hurdle over the obstructive appearances to look:
  • what we see is Diversity's promise of ‘Everyone is invited!’, but what we get, immediately, is rephrased into something like 'An open invitation to our BIPOC, non-Black POC and gender fluid, non-binary, two spirit, intersex, agender, bigender, third gender, neutrois, transsexual, and/or otherwise marginalized in terms of gender identity friends!', which is narrowly targeted towards a range of “protected marginalized classes", which we're told must be specially ‘acknowledged’ in order to promote ‘authentic' diversity. This singling out of particular 'identities' leads to ridiculous phrasings such as that above, which even one ‘queer theory’ theorist, Judith Butler, termed the politics of “the exasperated etc,”,
    • ...“elaborate predicates of color, sexuality, ethnicity, class, and able-bodiedness invariably close with an embarrassed "etc." at the end of the list…”
    , and the order in which they are singled out, leaves those mentioned to take notice of who was mentioned first, and leaves everyone else to wonder why they weren't mentioned at all, leading everyone to focus on identity, race, and other grievances, in every aspect of their lives, to boost their own position in those phrasings. Diversity requires the divisiveness of looking past who individuals are, to how their collective identities can be used to get privilege's and avoid penalties.
  • What we see is Equity’s promise of fairness, but what we get, immediately, is a set of outcome based quotas which have and must result in the likes of school AP courses being dropped because they have too many *white*, or ‘white adjacent’ (Persons Of Color who 'think too white'), and not enough 'authentic' POC. Equity requires unequal treatment, in order to cause equal (meaning: 'equal' + penalty points) outcomes. Whether or not any 'authentic POC’ actually desired to be involved, or not, doesn’t really matter to the enforcers of DEI (and it does come with official enforcers), if outcomes are unequal, that's taken as proof of systemic oppression, and so power must be applied to 'fix' that 'systemic inequity’, even if that means depriving everyone of the class altogether. Cutting down the Tall Poppies so that all will be of equal height, is what an 'equitable solution' is all about. 
This is far more dangerous than the old flavor of ‘the ends justify the means’, as our uninformed expectations of what we think we've permitted, are here being used to smuggle in new ends which we have no clue are being used to justify the means of expanding their power - power that is no longer formally and strictly confined to written laws and regulations - to 'make things more diverse, equitable, and inclusive', at the expense of everyone else. The Semantic Deception involved in education, and in SEL, and DEI in particular, is more than just a sign of things to come in our schools, it's already here in our everyday lives at work, and in society at large. No longer is it limited to only vague issues of 'Cancel Culture', as DEI Officers are one of the fastest growing ‘professions’ in corporate America today, who are appointed to ensure that nothing will be done, said or thought, in the workplace which might offend any marginalized class enjoying the protection of the *Woke*. Not because anyone is or has been offended, mind you, but because they might be – that 'might' is an ominous power.

Appearances are meant to be deceiving - and destructive
What we are led to believe by all of this, and by the media reporting on it, is that it's all about Race, all about *whiteness*, and all about *white supremacy*, but... believe it or not, it's not really about race. If your reaction is "They're talking about racism, they're calling me a racist, it feels a lot like it's about race... and I'm not going to tolerate it!", that's understandable, and you know what? They understand that that will be your reaction too. Think about that. My dear binary ladies and gents, when the enemy has gone to such great lengths to prepare the ground for you to fight them on, you’d be wise to think twice before fighting them there.

IOW: It's a trap! Seriously. Don’t go there. They go to great lengths to make this appear to be all about race, but it’s not about race, and no matter how many actual racists are involved - and there are many - Race is just the most convenient means of sowing dissension and causing division; the easiest means of putting people on edge; the easiest means of pitting people against each other; which is the easiest means of turning people's good intentions into the means of subduing them, so as to seize more of what this is all about: Power.

Don’t take the bait, don’t bother telling them that you’re not a racist or that they are; don’t tell them they’ve got you all wrong; because those are the very steps that they want you to take, as they will lead you smack dab into the kill zone that they’ve prepared for you.

Power feeds upon division and discord and requires the suppression of reason, and when you rush into the argument that they've prepared for you, with facts & charges locked & loaded for an argument, you're going to find that you've brought the proverbial knife to a gunfight as you are subjected to an emotional smearing with charges you won't understand and can't combat. Why? You cannot engage in an argument, and especially not a reasonable one, when the words you're using, especially words like 'Racism', 'Reason', 'Logic' & 'Education', mean one thing to you, and an entirely different thing to the person you're arguing with. For another thing, the 'moral high ground' which you think you have, is another thing that the *woke* despise and consider to be 'proof' of 'systemic racism'. 

 You see the problem here? As powerful as Reason is, it's powerless to persuade the person who has no intention of being reasonable, and intends only to subdue and destroy you and your position.

What that all means, is that you aren't walking into a situation where your argument can even be argued, instead your statements and charges will be dismissed with reams of ‘authentic’ studies and whitepapers of ‘laundered ideas’, followed by a barrage of insults and mockery, to condemn you as being complicit with the systemic oppression that your *whiteness* (which is not limited to white people) leaves you unable to see, and pretty quickly many if not most of the onlookers will be nodding along with them, as you're told that your failure to see racism, or worse, claiming not to be a racist, are proof of your own 'fragility' and inability to admit that you are a racist, and of the systemic racism that you are furthering, and you and your 'reasonable argument' will be left in a smoldering heap.

Of course you want to say “that makes no sense!”, and yes, you’re right, their ‘logic’ is flawed, in fact it’s not even up to the level of being flawed, but there too, if you try to ‘follow the logic’ of their trap, you'll soon learn the hard way that ‘logic’, along with math, merit, and punctuality, are deemed to be traits of ‘whiteness’ and evidence of systemic oppression.

If you are now thinking: "You say it's not about race, but everything you've said is all about race?!", you're missing the point - notice that the likes of Carol Swain, Thomas Sowell, Kash Patel, or anyone else who makes a reasonable argument against anything *wokish* - as even the likes of Nicki Minaj recently discovered - they will be instantly condemned as ‘inauthentic’. It's not about race, or gender, or anything else but being fully ideologically *woke*, which is what the very *woke* and very white author of "White Fragility", Robin DiAngelo, is.

I'm telling you, despite the obvious trappings, it's not about Race, it's about ideology, and your attempting to argue as if it is about race, empowers them, not you. James Lindsay translates *woke* as:
"...In brief, “woke” means having awakened to having a particular type of “critical consciousness,” as these are understood within Critical Social Justice. To first approximation, being woke means viewing society through various critical lenses, as defined by various critical theories bent in service of an ideology most people currently call “Social Justice.” That is, being woke means having taken on the worldview of Critical Social Justice, which sees the world only in terms of unjust power dynamics and the need to dismantle problematic systems. That is, it means having adopted Theory and the worldview it conceptualizes...".
Truth is not a value to the *woke*, objective reality is denied, it's all about power, and how to get it. The thing for you & me to remember, is that 'Power' is vulnerable to what is true, and being fearfully aware of that vulnerability, it hides it behind a series of deceptions which are phrased in order to seem fair and make others feel foul about questioning it.

The name of the game is Semantic Deception, and they're using the semantics of the issue, whether of racism, or gender, or religion, etc., to deceive you into focusing upon, in this case, racism, just as they've used the semantics of Education and our calling for more of it, to reduce us to our current state of pitiful ignorance. The *Woke* ideology uses the camouflage of race (or gender, religion, etc.,), to cause division and disorder in order to acquire power. They've taken the labels of 'racist' and ‘logic’ and ‘proof’, and have changed their popular meanings, not just to entrap you, but because they despise the reality and substance of what those labels actually identify, and that's what we need to focus on.

Not walking into a trap, and not fighting back, are two very different things
What they don’t want you to do, what they are threatened by, are those who step around the trap that they've prepared, and instead require them respond with, and to, the substance of what they've attempted to re-label away into nothingness. Flush them out into the sunlight where their positions cannot survive, by using what they count on denying and evading - words and terms that are defined and understood, and formed into positions that make reasonable sense. They've changed what the labels refer to, because they fear what they refer to - asking questions can bring what they fear back out into the open, where the deception crumbles. The game of semantics is exposed and destroyed by anyone who takes the time to identify the words and terms being used, and calmly reasons their way through the statements and 'arguments' being made.

You're emotional responses fuel their attacks, don't take the bait. Respond to their outrageous charges not with counter charges, but by calmly questioning them - ask them to identify what they mean by the terms they're using, and not using; what do they mean by 'Racism', 'Reason', 'Logic', 'Education', 'Systemic', and of course what do they mean by 'Diversity', 'Equity', and 'Inclusion' - show them what they mean by what they're promoting.

Realize that the truly Woke, will not engage in this, and they’ll likely ramp up their insults about your being a racist oppressor for attempting it, but they aren't your concern, the onlookers are, and if you don't get emotional, they will gain no ground with those on the sidelines. Those who innocently bought into the semantic deception of Wokeness, will see that something's amiss, and those are the people who may still be reachable by your reasoning methodically, logically, towards what is actually true. They are who your argument is for, even if they aren't the ones that you're actually talking with.

For example, some questions to ask about what they mean by 'Diversity':
  • Does 'Diversity' only mean having people of diverse backgrounds?
  • Does 'Diversity' mean that people are of less value, when not grouped with people of diverse backgrounds?
  • If a minority opinion is of value to all, is it the opinion, or who said it, that makes it of value?
  • Does 'Diversity' tolerate a diversity of opinions about 'Diversity'?
  • Would 'Diversity' work best within a group of people who have diverse identities but are restricted to a uniform set of ideas, or would welcoming a diversity of ideas within a group of people indifferent to their identities, be more likely to reveal new and better ideas & actions for all?
  • How is a value determined to be of value?
  • To who?
  • Based upon what?
Ask a question and let the discussion follow from it, keeping in mind that your opinion is of no interest to them, but theirs is - ask them what they mean by what they say. Do that calmly and with the attitude that such questions and their answers truly matter (hint: you do have to actually believe and care about that - do you?), and those who can still be reached, will begin to question their own positions. You might even wake the *woke*, or at least plant a few seeds that will sprout for them later - but if you fall into the emotional ‘racist!’ trap, you will lose, and lose them as well, which is the result that the *Woke* are hoping for.

Don’t give it to them.

Next we'll look closer at SEL's origins, claims, and purposes.

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